I will never forget the day that I was walking down the street in the heart of Skid Row and saw a woman, Susan, squatting in the gutter. I didn’t think much of it at first, things that in many places seem strange are fairly commonplace here, but I stopped when I noticed exactly what she was doing; scooping water in her mouth to drink from the run-off of a local vendor’s hose as he sprayed down the streets. I ran over to stop her, to help her find clean water, but she refused. I explained that this water would make her sick, but she stated “I am so thirsty I don’t even care, I’ll take whatever it gives me.”
She was later hospitalized as she was not only severely dehydrated, she became incredibly ill.
While it’s not necessarily impossible to get clean drinking water as a homeless person, there are places to access it if you know where to go, it’s not as easy to come by as one would assume in America. Drinking fountains are scarce and a running faucet is not easily accessible for someone who looks and smells like they haven’t bathed in weeks.
I take for granted the clean water that I not only have at my disposal, but often waste, while others would be willing to crawl into the gutter for it. Meeting Susan called to mind the summer I spent living in the Domincan Republic where I was told very explicitly DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER and yet, somehow toward the end of my time there ingested it only to find myself violently ill for days. It made me consider how often I call 911 for someone only to learn that they were sick due to severe dehydration. It made me think of the harrowing statistics I’ve read about diseases and fatalities all over the world due to contaminated water.
It reminded me how selfish and self-centered I can be and how easily I forget how good I’ve got it.
It made me want to be different…but how?
This Sunday, March 22nd is World Water Day. A day marked to recognize the immense needs and efforts being made to bring people clean water all over the world. Let’s all do something to get involved…it can be small- a small drop can create a ripple of change. (see what I did there?)
Learn. Educate yourself on the importance of clean water for everyone- it’s not merely about hydration- clean water is needed to create sustainable living, sanitation and economic growth.
Get Practical. While I think that giving money to organizations that serve people is great and incredibly vital, I am a big proponent of person-to-person giving. The best way I have learned to give clean water to someone in need is…to give clean water to someone in need. While I am not typically a huge fan of plastic water bottles due to their wasteful nature, I often carry some around in my car and my purse to give to homeless people that I meet. Consider toting a few around with you and spreading the love.
Take Action. In my quest for answers to our world water crisis and how we can all do our part I’ve recently come across a couple organizations that I’ve quickly become huge fans of:
World Thirst What I love about World Thirst is their mission to not only provide access to safe water, but they are doing so on a micro-finance platform, offering economic development as well- the key to sustainability. Being a young organization they are in “pilot” phase currently, but you can subscribe to them and follow when investment opportunities will be made open to the public.
Waves For Water W4W is a local Southern California non-profit that combines two major loves of mine; the ocean and clean, drinkable water in developing countries. On their site the offer of ways to raise funds, campaign and even go to the places as a clean water courier- come on, I know some of you have some surf trips you’re dying to take.*
*Let me know if you do, I am IN.
Lastly, consider hopping in your nearest ocean, lake, swimming pool or shower and giving thanks. I know that may sound a bit cheesy, but I for one don’t want to live another day taking for granted the gift that is clean, drinkable, swim-able, surf-able water that is so readily available to me. Water is life, y’all and it’s far too easy for me to forget it.